ALL ACCOUNTS AND MIXTURE: Divine Prose from Bronwyn Mauldin





            A sunny spring day in Rome, and a beautiful Italian young woman, ELENA, is out walking her beloved little pug, BRUNO. Elena wears a silky pale blue blouse and linen pants sheer enough to give us hints of her long legs. She stops at a gelateria and orders a scoop of cherry. She licks gelato from a small spoon in delicate circles. The young gelato vendor follows the movement of her tongue with his head, as if imagining he were the ice cream.
            At the edge of the scene, a ghostly figure in white flickers, then disappears. Elena and the venditore don’t see it, intent as they both are on her cherry gelato. Bruno spots the figure though. With a sharp bark, he takes off in pursuit. He escapes his leash, leaving the long black, leather lead empty in Elena’s hands.
            “My Bruno!” Elena calls out. She drops her gelato and runs after the dog. As the camera follows Elena, we catch sight of the venditore down on his hands and knees, licking up the remnants of her ice cream in ecstasy.
            Bruno turns a corner and runs along a high stone wall lined with a multitude of people from all over the world. Elena follows half a block behind, calling out in English and Italian, “Bruno! Come back here now, you naughty dog. Cane cattivo!” We see the blurry white figure again – still we cannot quite make out what it is – as it enters a building. Bruno follows. Elena does too, in the door and up the stairs. Ticket takers and security guards part like the Red Sea as she passes. Bruno scampers between a pair of guards in uniform and under a red-and-white striped gate. As Elena approaches at a run, the younger of the two guards simply raises the gate to let her through. The distinguished-looking older guard drops his chin into his hand, elbow on the desk in front of him, and sighs, “Che bella.”
            Elena anxiously wraps the leash around her left hand as she follows Bruno into an art gallery. She is brought to an abrupt halt by a large group of overheated pink tourists in shorts, t-shirts and tennis shoes. A dumpy woman in a navy suit is explaining the golden panels of Giotto di Bondone’s Stefaneschi Triptych to the tourists in Italian-accented English. Elena pushes her way into the group, scanning the floor for Bruno and asking, “Have you seen my dog? Hai visto il mio cane?”
            At the same time, both we and a very handsome, tanned tourist catch a flash of Bruno running through the gallery. “There he is!” he says. Elena and the tourist chase after Bruno. As they step into the next gallery, they simultaneously catch sight of Filippo Lippi’s Coronation of the Virgin and come to a standstill. “It’s so beautiful!” Elena exclaims.
            “Not as beautiful as you,” the tourist says shyly. They throw their arms around each other and engage in an act of traditional, missionary-style sex on the padded bench in the center of the room, conveniently placed for viewing Lippi’s Virgin.
            Just as Elena is climaxing, Bruno barks at a fleeting glimpse of the mysterious figure in white that is exiting the room. “Caro Bruno!” Elena exclaims as she leaps up from the bench and runs after Bruno, leash still wrapped around her left hand, but leaving her shoes behind.


            Elena continues her journey through the Vatican galleries, searching for Bruno. She is periodically stopped in her tracks by a magnificent piece of art. Staring in awe at Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno, Elena is approached by a guard with a ragged mustache and unkempt hair.  “Oh, signore, you look just like Giovanni Battista,” she chirps, pointing to the painting. He removes his uniform to expose a hair shirt that looks not unlike the Baptist’s wooly garb. Elena lowers her trousers and bends down with her hands on her knees for the guard to enter her from behind.
            In the Immaculate Conception room, a beam of light streams from the upper corner of the fresco. It illuminates a bible and continues down to the upturned hand of a nineteenth century pope surrounded by his cardinals. As Elena approaches the painting, the light spreads until it illuminates her, leaving the crowds around her in shadow. Elena glows brighter, and she begins to touch herself, eventually bringing herself to a husky, full-throated climax. 
            Chasing Bruno through an octagonal courtyard she pauses to admire the statue of Laocoön and His Sons. The men and serpents turn to gaze back at her. Antiphantes comes fully to life. Elena approaches him, kisses his nipples, works her way down his body and performs fellatio as the snake entwines itself around both of their bodies.
            During each sex act, just as Elena is climaxing, Bruno barks and at the same time we catch another glimpse of the figure in white passing at the edge of the scene. Each time we see the figure it becomes a little bit clearer. Eventually, we begin to recognize it as a high-level church official in formal robes.
            Each time, when Bruno barks, Elena leaps up and chases after him, but leaves another piece of clothing behind. First her blouse, then her pants, and so on.  
            By the time they enter the Galleria Delle Carte Geografiche, Elena is only wearing a pair of delicate lace panties. She follows Bruno down the center of the room. The figure in white passes a window, briefly hovering outside. Bruno leaps toward it, but instead of going through the window, the little pug splashes into the Tyrrhenian Sea in one of the frescoed maps.
            Without hesitation, Elena dives in after the pug, hardly making a splash as her lithe body breaks the water. She swims like a mermaid, arms tight along her side, undulating in rhythm with the kicks of her long, strong legs. No matter how quickly she cuts through the water, though, she can’t quite catch up with Bruno. Shimmering schools of red, blue, and bright yellow fish turn and cartwheel in her wake. Soon, a naked bearded man is swimming beside her. He has wide shoulders, and his upper arms and thighs are thick with muscle. His abs ripple as he matches Elena kick for kick through the sea. They come up for air together.
            “I am Neptune, god of the sea, and you will be mine!” Elena wraps both legs around him as he enters her, and they float together as one in the salty blue brine.
            A muffled yip, and from our view underwater we see the mysterious figure in white robes walking along the shore. Bruno bounds out of the sea, emerging from the Laguna Veneta to land at the far end of the map hall. He shakes himself, splashing water over a gaggle of sweaty tourists, who twist with pleasure in the cooling spray. Elena emerges from the water still in pursuit of her pug, completely naked except for the leash still wrapped around her left hand. She chases Bruno into the crowds that grow ever thicker as they approach the Sistine Chapel.
            Once in the chapel, Bruno disappears into a forest of gawking tourists who stand in stupefaction, oblivious to anything but the ceiling overhead. Elena pushes and squirms her way through the crowd, calling for “Bruno, mio caro Bruno.” A voice comes over the intercom, “Shhh. Silence. Shhh.” The din of awestruck tourists dissipates.
            A balding fat man with a turquoise fanny pack tucked between belly and groin grabs Elena’s arm, points up, and says something in a Slavic language she does not understand. Elena follows his arm to gaze up at the image of a naked Noah drunk before his sons. The Slavic gentleman glances over, about to say something more, then realizes he has grabbed the wrong arm. His equally rotund wife is scowling beside him, arms crossed over an ample bosom wrapped tight in a purple tank top. The man lets go of Elena’s arm as if it were on fire and laughs nervously, saying something in his language that sounds apologetic. The wife takes him by the ear and drags him out of the Sistine Chapel.
            Meanwhile, Elena is transfixed, staring at the naked men above her until Japheth comes to life, penis first. He stretches his arms down from the ceiling toward her as she reaches upward toward him, but they cannot reach each other. Elena unwinds the leash, keeping one end looped around her wrist, and throws the clasp end toward him. He catches it and pulls her up into the painting. Japheth and Elena find a narrow corner in the painting where they have sex standing up against the shed. As the sound of their lovemaking grows, so does the sound of hundreds of tourists coming face-to-face with the sublime, both rising together to their natural crescendo.
            “Silence!” a voice commands over the intercom. “This is a holy place!”
            Bruno yips, and we see the mysterious figure in white exit the chapel through a side door.  The pug scurries after the figure, followed by Elena who is now returned entirely to the state in which Eve met Adam.


            The story of Elena and her dog reaches its climax in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bruno trots into the church and comes to a halt, barking. Up ahead the figure in white robes comes into focus as it walks up the nave. Reaching the altar, below Bernini’s great four-poster baldacchino, the figure turns to face us, and we can finally see it is (as we likely expected) the Holy Father.
            Bruno goes silent, lifting one paw in reverence. Elena, standing naked behind her dog on a red-purple circle of porphyry stone, crosses herself and falls to her knees. The Holy Father lifts his arms in benediction, and with that movement, his robes fall away from him. We see now that the Holy Father is not a man but a woman, rubenesque, with long, wavy red-blonde hair, looking not unlike Venus in Botticelli’s painting of her birth. Unlike Venus, however, she does not cover herself, as she is not ashamed to be seen and admired.
            “Rise, Elena,” she says, gesturing with her arms.
            Elena slowly approaches. Sunlight from the open doorway behind her sparkles on her skin. A faint shadow of the obelisk in the square behind her appears, then fades away. “Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned,” says Elena.  
            “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” says the Holy Mother, with a beatific smile full of love and acceptance. “We are called to keep fervent in our love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
            The Holy Mother opens her arms and Elena falls into them. Their embrace turns to caresses and kisses, and soon they are rolling on the floor in ecstatic lovemaking. As Elena climaxes, Bruno comes running. He dances circles around Elena and her lover, yipping with joy. The three of them share a joyous moment, laughing, petting the dog.
            Elena and the Holy Mother turn together again and make mad, passionate love one more time under the statue of St. Peter, who looks down upon them with a smile and finally completes the blessing his two upraised fingers have promised for centuries.


About the Author:
Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution, and the short story collection The Streetwise Cycle. She is a past winner of The Coffin Factory (now Tweed’s) magazine’s very short story contest. Her work has appeared at Akashic Books, Literature for Life, Necessary Fiction, and other places. She is also creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. In September 2016, she was Artist in Residence at Mesa Verde National Park. More at .
You can also find Bronwyn on Twitter and Instagram as @guerrillareads, and on her FB author page at .

About All Accounts:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as "queer," while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream. Submissions open May 18th and run through June 19th. Poetry, prose, visual art, reviews and interviews will all be considered.